If you’ve ever gloried in the smell of stale rubber or the sound of a Zamboni in an indoor skating rink, chances are you took ice skating lessons. Then, you were outraged when your teacher said the first thing you’d learn to do is fall. Still, learning to fall (and stand back up) safely is way more important than jumps and spins, especially if you’re disrupting traffic at a public ice rink.
For the girls of the Northwestern Synchronized Skating Team, skating in a group has become their passion. A lot of them started out as singles skaters, but now they’ve dedicated their skills to choreographed group routines and competitions. The team, lead by Jessica Swenson, a McCormick senior and president of the team, has maintained its standing in the top four of their sectional, even as more and more schools join the division. In fact, the team just brought home the silver medal at the 2010 Midwestern Synchronized Skating Sectional Championships in January.
Bend your knees: If you do end up falling, you’d rather end up on your knees than on your tailbone.
Protect your face: Pretty straightforward. You generally don’t want your head or face crashing into anything solid, including a slab of ice.
Keep your hands in: When other people are walking by, the last thing you want to do is leave your fingers on the ice, ready to be stepped on.
Bounce back quickly: Your spill might make you feel like you should be languishing in pity for a bit, but you should get up as quickly as possible, especially if there are a lot of people around you.
Standing up: The synchro girls suggest the “puppy position” to get back up: get on all fours then use one foot at a time. Then put your butt in the air and stand up. Ta da! Only marginally embarrassing.
Smile! Just because you feel like an idiot doesn’t mean you have to look like one too. Give a big smile and wave to your fans.
Captain Jessica Swenson
It only seems right that Swenson, a Minnesota native, had her first skating experience on a slab of ice in her aunt’s backyard when she was around 2 or 3 years old. Swenson started taking lessons in 1st grade and joined her first synchro team when she was 9 years old. “The team aspect of synchro is why I love it so much,” she says. “You’re holding onto someone the entire time—and you’re not alone in front of the judges.”
She credits the friends she made on her first synchro team with her love for skating and the importance she puts in community. She joined the Northwestern team her freshman year, and has stuck with it since. “It’s a way for me to continue being part of the skating community and to meet people from all across campus,” she says.
Swenson is busy building community outside of the skating world as well. She helps students in the prototyping lab located in the Ford Building on campus, builds projects for the Rehabilitation Institute of Chicago for stroke survivors and serves as summer program chair for The Society of Women Engineers.